Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Baseball team aims for NAIA World Series

Baseball player Payton Alexander runs the bases during a game last year before the 2019-2020 baseball season was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Alexander and his teammates have set high expectations for the Wolf pack baseball team this season after finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2014. Photo courtesy of Kyle Encar

The Wolf Pack baseball team is determined to succeed this spring after COVID-19 restrictions put an abrupt halt to last year’s winning season, the program’s first since 2014.

The team was devastated when their progress was cut short last season, according to third basemen Payton Alexander.

“There was this little sour taste left in our mouth, like, we were right there. That was our chance to show everybody that we belong here,” Alexander said.

Prior to the unexpected cancellation of their first season under head coach Jeremy Kennedy, the team held a 17-9 record with three wins against Top 25 ranked teams, according to Wolf Pack Athletics. Although half of the season was canceled, Kennedy felt like he made a strong first impression.

“We have a growth and development culture where we try not to be results-oriented,” Kennedy said. “We try to be about maximizing what we’re capable of as an individual as well as a team. You put those things together, and the results kind of take care of themselves.”

The Wolf Pack hit .282 as a team, marking their highest combined batting average since 2010, according to Wolf Pack Athletics. The team plans to build off of the success and momentum from last year while looking ahead to the 2021 season.

“We’ll continue doing all the same things we’ve been doing as far as the way we train and go about building our team. All those basic principles are just who we are no matter what year it is, but the influx of talent this year will definitely help,” Kennedy said.

The team has a few Division I transfers joining them this season as well as one junior college transfer.

“They’re physical guys, so they bring that presence to us,” Kennedy said. “From a maturity and leadership standpoint, I think they make an impact on the confidence that the team has.”

Alexander was named Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Week in February of the 2020 season. Alexander was ranked ninth in the SSAC with a .375 batting average, according to Wolf Pack Athletics.

The sky is the limit for the Wolf Pack, according to Alexander.

“I don’t see why any other goal should be mentioned. I think anything other than going to the NAIA World Series is selling us short,” Alexander said. “We’re focused on being the best team in our conference and proving that we’re not a team to be messed with.”

Alongside Alexander stands junior Brandon Duhon. The infielder led the team with 29 runs this past season and ranked No. 2 in the NAIA with 34 stolen bases, according to Wolf Pack Athletics.

Duhon, who started his collegiate baseball career at Delgado Community College, believes that the program owes its up-and-coming success to their coaches.

“We did a great job with such a quick turnaround, and I think it’s all because of Coach K. and Coach Bruce,” Duhon said. “They know the game well and give us enough freedom to play our own game but also be coachable and do what they ask.”

Like Alexander, Duhon is confident that the Wolf Pack will accomplish some of the goals they were unable to reach from last season.

“I think we can definitely make a run for the World Series. That’s always the goal,” Duhon said. “We definitely have the guys to do it, and we definitely have the coaches to do it.”

The Wolf Pack will be experiencing a different playing atmosphere when they approach the diamond this spring. According to NAIA’s fall sports guidelines, all players and coaches must be screened on each day of practice or when team activity takes place, among other health protocols.

No further guidelines have been specified for spring sports by the NAIA.

“It’s really not that much of a hassle, to be honest, to just throw a mask on,” Alexander said. “It’s something that’s safe for all of us and allows us to go out there and play the game that we love.”

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About the Contributor
Alex Akes, Assistant Sports Editor
Alex Akes is a sophomore mass communication journalism major from Belmar New Jersey. This semester, Alex is excited to be serving as the assistant sports editor for The Maroon. She previously was a staff writer and was a part of the digital team. Outside of The Maroon, Alex is a Desk Assistant for Loyola Residence Halls, and is a member of the Public Relations Students Society of America. When she’s not on campus, Alex loves reading, cooking new things and going to Audubon park.

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